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Houthis launch more drone attacks as shipping companies suspend Red Sea operations

The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece. The U.S. military said the ship shot down drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge
/
U.S. Navy via AP
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece. The U.S. military said the ship shot down drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday.

The American military said one of its ships deployed to the Red Sea has successfully shot down more than a dozen drones launched from areas of Yemen controlled by the Houthi militant group.

The guided missile destroyer USS Carney struck 14 one-way attack drones that formed part of a "drone wave," according to U.S. Central Command. No ships in the area were damaged and no one was injured, the U.S. military said.

A spokesperson for the Houthis asserted in a statement posted on Telegram that the group had fired a "large batch" of drones toward the Israeli coastal town of Eilat, at the northern tip of the Red Sea, as part of what they called "a victory for the oppression of the Palestinian people."

The group vowed to continue such attacks until Israel ends its campaign in Gaza, but a spokesperson insisted the attacks could become less frequent if more humanitarian aid was allowed into Gaza.

Saturday's attempt to target Eilat marked the latest incident in the region, with U.S. forces having earlier shot down a drone that was harassing an oil tanker Wednesday.

Britain's defense minister, Grant Shapps, said in a statement that the U.K. naval vessel HMS Diamond had also recently shot down what he termed a "suspected attack drone" that had targeted merchant shipping. "The recent spate of illegal attacks," Shapps wrote, "represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea."

The Houthis, who control large swaths of northern Yemen, have said they will continue to attack vessels that are either owned or operated by Israeli firms, or are in transit to Israel.

The United States has long said the Houthis receive financial and military support from Iran, alongside other militant groups such as Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon and has been involved in heightened clashes for the past two months with Israel's military in the region close to the two countries' shared border.

U.S. Central Command earlier this month said it had "every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran."

The impact on the international shipping business has been seismic, with Northern European companies Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd on Friday telling their ship captains to avoid the region or hold in place while the threat persists.

The Swiss-headquartered cargo giant MSC said on Saturday its vessels would cease transit through the Suez Canal for the foreseeable future after one of its ships, Palatium III, was attacked Friday morning.

That incident sparked a fire on board, though no crew members were injured. The company told customers its journey times would become several days longer as ships en route from Europe and North America to Asia would now need to travel far farther, around the southern tip of Africa.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Willem Marx